In this coming week’s issue of Xpress, we’re taking you on a regional museum tour getaway. As part of that story, we visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, predictably located in Cherokee. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and admission is $10.
After paying that entrance fee, visitors watch a short film featuring an old Cherokee man telling the tribe’s creation story, with mythical animals playing the star roles. After that, folks are free to roam about the exhibits at their own pace, starting with paleo-indian life, and moving chronologically up through the Trail of Tears and on to when the Eastern Band of Cherokee was officially recognized in the late 19th century.
Along the way, there are numerous multimedia elements including voiceovers telling different stories related to the tribe’s history playing on a loop, a 3-D video of a Cherokee “medicine man” telling the tribe’s legend of the origin of disease, and an exhibit that flashes and pronounces the letters of the Cherokee alphabet. There are also several realistic wax statues of various famous Cherokee. In all, it’s a sobering and sad tale, one typical in early American history.
If there is one thing breaking the mood, it’s that in many respects the museum seems a bit dated. In particular, those multimedia elements have a distinct 90s feel to them. What might have seemed impressive 15 years ago, now borders on camp, and that’s not good when you’re trying to tell a serious tale about a culture that very much deserves to be taken seriously.
Still, what the Museum of the Cherokee Indian offers visitors is a chance to understand the real Cherokee culture, one that they might be hard pressed to find elsewhere on the reservation, where the still-popular stereotypes of teepee-dwelling Native Americans in full headdress, doing “war dances” are still far too often found.